17 January, 2009


One-point perspective works fine if you happen to be looking directly at the front of something or standing in the middle of some railroad tracks, but what if the scene is viewed from the side? Then you shift into two-point perspective. Two-point perspective has two vanishing points on the horizon line. All lines, except the vertical, will converge onto one of the two vanishing points.

In One-point perspective, the height and the width of the object are parallel to the picture plane. In Two-point perspective, only the height is parallel to the picture plane. The other dimensions, the two sides, recedes into the picture depth, therefore, it must have a set of imaginary lines and vanishing points. These vanishing points will also be established on the horizon line. The farther apart the points, the more we see of the sides. The closer together the points, the less we see of the sides. In order to keep our proportions fairly close to reality, we should lightly sketch to judge how much of each side we really see. Judge one side against the other. Notice that the parallel sides of the cube now appear smaller as they move into the depth of picture plane. Our viewing point is also established and will remain constant for all objects placed in the picture.

Instead of viewing the cube from a straight on approach as in one-point perspective, in two-point perspective we are viewing it from an angle. In two-point perspective, the corner of the cube is the point closes to us. When we draw the angles of the top and bottom edges of the sides, the extended lines meet on the horizon line, establishing the vanishing points. The vanishing points are usually placed outside of the picture than the other, one of the vanishing points would be inside of the picture plane and one would be outside.

The real world is rarely so organized as to align objects facing the viewer, nor are we often standing in the correct position to observe objects so directly. Because we view most objects from an angle, and not directly from the front or sides, two-point perspective allows us to represent our world more realistically by orienting two faces of an object obliquely to the picture plane.

The book illustration shows an example of two-point perspective. Other than the obvious difference in having two vanishing points, it is also important to note that objects drawn using this method have an edge closest to the picture plane rather than a face as in one-point.

The horizon line in the book image is higher in the two-point example than the horizon in the one-point perspective image. The higher horizon suggests a viewpoint from a higher position, such as looking down upon a book on a table. The position of the horizon line represents the viewer’s eye level and affects how the viewer interprets the image. A lower horizon suggests that the scene is either from greater distance or that the viewer is lower to the “ground.” A higher horizon could also be used to suggest the viewer was looking out a window from a tall building. Horizon line placement is similar to using a “bird’s eye view” or a “bug’s eye view” in photography. These extremes are useful for creating more dramatic visual results. Look for this technique in comic books, where horizon placement and exaggerated perspective are used to suggest action and create more visual interest.

The two-point perspective drawing consists of two vanishing points that are both situated on a horizon line. The further apart these vanishing points are on the horizon line, the more relaxed or realistic the perspective will visually seem. In contrast, the closer that one VP is to another VP on the horizon line, the more squashed or forced the perspective will become. Understand that a cube is created of parallel lines for its height, width and length. Perspective will not physically change this; only visually will it seem to change.

The two point perspective drawing has the y-axis lines converging to one vanishing point and all the x-axis lines converging to the other. The example below demonstrates the forced and distorted creation of a cube when the vanishing points are placed closer together.

Drawing a Box in Two Point Perspective:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Next, draw lines from the top and bottom of the line you drew in step one line back towards your two vanishing points. These lines will make the sides of the box. You should notice that these lines will naturally make triangles. If you can imagine this box as being so large that it went all the way back to the horizon that it would appear to get smaller and smaller as it gets closer to the horizon.

Step 3:

Now draw 2 more vertical lines between each of the triangle shapes. These lines will define the length and width of the box.

Step 4:

From the top of the lines that you added in step two draw another set of lines that go back to the vanishing points. You should note that these lines will cross. The point where they cross is the back corner of the top of your box. In the last step we’ll clean up the construction lines and finish off the 2 point perspective drawing.

Step 5:

Remove any lines that are not necessary to define the box. I colored in my perspective box to make it clearer.

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